Michael Cashman will join the UK’s House of Lords, it was announced today. It is believed his new title will be Lord Cashman of Limehouse.
The openly gay former actor is famous for the moment when his character, Colin, had the first gay kiss in a British soap opera, EastEnders.
He was one of the co-founder of Stonewall, along with fellow actor Sir Ian McKellen, and went on to be a Member of the European Parliament for the West Midlands of England.
As an MEP he was president of the European Parliament Intergroup on LGBT Rights.
He left the parliament in May after deciding not to contest his seat in this year’s elections.
As the unelected upper chamber of the UK parliament, the House of Lords has around 770 members; 92 of them are hereditary peers, others are appointed for lifetime membership.
His likely new title comes from the area of London where he was born and where his father was a dockworker.
Cashman said: ‘It is an immense honour to be given this opportunity to continue to serve my country and pursue my passion for human rights, equalities, arts and culture, development, and the European Union.
‘I will work tirelessly to achieve a Labour government led by Ed Milliband, which I believe will best serve the people of our country.
‘I have so many friends and colleagues to thank for all the support they have given me, but especially my partner of over 30 years, Paul Cottingham.
‘My only regret is that my old mum and dad, an office cleaner and a dockworker in London’s East End, aren’t alive to share this fantastic stage in my life.’
Cashman was born in Limehouse East London, one of four sons. He starred in Oliver at the age of 12 in London’s West End and had a successful career as an actor and writer.
As well as his gay and human rights work he was honorary treasurer of Actors Equity where he was pivotal in negotiating the Equity Pension scheme.
Elected onto Labour’s National Executive Committee in 1998, he stepped down after serving as chair of the NEC in 2013.
He became Labour MEP for the West Midlands in 1999 and pursued human rights, civil liberties, development, and citizens’ petitions. He was twice voted by other MEPs as MEP of the year. He did not seek re-election in 2014.
In 2013 he was made a CBE.
He entered into a civil partnership with Paul Cottingham in March 2006.